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Over the past month, lawmakers in two states have introduced bills that would ban drug makers from giving most gifts to doctors, although they are responding to different hot-button issues that continue to vex Americans: the rising cost of prescription medicines and the ongoing opioid crisis.

In Michigan, state Rep. Douglas Wozniak, who sponsored the legislation, complained that drug prices have increased “astronomically” and there is a need to eliminate what he called “exorbitant incentives” that pharmaceutical companies are providing prescribers. His bill is part of a legislative package designed to hold all companies in the “supply chain” accountable for rising costs.

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  • These proposed laws are fine, but seem out of touch with current reality. Perhaps naive or perhaps just an attempt to show that they are “doing something” about pharma and drug prices (like the recent Trump executive orders).

    several points…
    1. Insys was a rogue, outlier company. They in no way represent anything remotely typical among biopharma company behavior in the 21st century.
    2. With Insys for all intents and purposes gone, what company is promoting an opioid? None that I’m aware of. If true, how is this continuing to exacerbate the “opioid crisis”?
    3. Payment for legitimate services (ie, having a healthcare professional speak to peers about a product using content approved by the company’s regulatory, legal and medical system) is not a gift.
    4. PhRMA guidelines have banned “gifts”, including small items like pens, for well over a decade. Items that can be used directly for patient care and have a value under $25 can be provided. That’s it. (Not every biopharma company belongs to PhRMA, but most — and all the big ones — do.)
    5. Yes, food can be provided. Typically this is lunch brought in for an office, which the staff in particular really appreciate. This typically leads to a short presentation about a product — 10 minutes or so in my experience.

    Not saying to trust pharma. Just saying that chasing stuff that isn’t really happening any more sounds good but isn’t solving anything.

    • Hi Pharma Vet,

      Thanks for your note.
      You raise some fair points and I’m not in a position to defend the bills. That said, my understanding is the legislators believe there is a need to have laws in the event such practices do occur again. Insys may be history, but there is no guarantee another company would not try some of the same stunts.

      There are exceptions in each bill, some pertaining to the items you raise, and you can read those since I provided hyperlinks in the story. And yes PhRMA banned certain activities and you saw what the trade group had to say.

      Will these bills make a difference? I don’t know, but we have an industry trade group ban and a federal gift-giving database in order to draw lines in the sand, so to speak. None of that stopped Insys.

      In other words, a law may also present the opportunity to admonish companies – big or small – that cross the line. A tool in the toolbox, as they say.

      ed at pharmalot

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